The sun has its hat on. Blue skies stretch over us this morning and you don’t need to tell the Danes twice to get their legs out. Suddenly it’s summer everywhere. It’s a strange cocktail that opens up the morning, but a perfect one for anyone with day two tent sweat and maybe a small sore head. Conor Oberst’s Bright Eyes are opening the Arena tent and the band are going at it full tilt from the off. It’s a big sound, with a great horn section and Oberst absolutely magnetic at the front. Whatever he’s got, you can’t take you’re eyes off him and the fast-paced party atmosphere never wanes.
Second part of the morning’s cocktail is Nicolas Jaar. Despite being only 2.30pm, and Jaar being barely in his 20s, the tent is a mass of beaming lights and high-end neon visuals and on-stage, Jaar and his band have a moody presence, all black suits. From behind a bank of electronics, Jaar manages to focus attention even when just turning up the bass. His vocals add another layer as he effortlessly moves through different electronic styles, and all in sync with the visuals. Halfway through the set, the crowd are fully with him. An awesome intro to a sunny day, it would be outstanding if it was 12 hours later.
Danish rock with truly international reach comes in the shape of The Raveonettes on the main stage. They start pretty weakly, without his guitar on, lead man Sune Wagner dances like a geek at a school disco and in the bright light of day they don’t seem to sum up the dark southern gothic sound they are capable of. A power-cut on stage doesn’t help and the long delay in getting it restarted sees our interest wane and for curiosity purposes we wanted to Valby Vokalgruppe who have previously been filmed by Vincent Moon. Four girls singing avant-garde harmonies and some subtle synths, it was certainly interesting if somewhat challenging on the ears.
A chance encounter here with a friend and we learn about 62 year old Charles Bradley, who is onstage in the Odeon tent. After hearing his backstory we head straight there. A soul singer in the James Brown mould, he’s been playing small clubs as a jobbing singer until recently when Daptone records put out his first album in a 40 year career. The tent is busy, not packed, but Bradley is playing it like it’s a sold-out Apollo. In the great soul tradition, he is both introduced on and then off the stage by his keyboard player. He looks every inch the hard-lived soul man and when he spins and drops to his knees, grabbing the mike on the way down there’s uproar. One great moment is his take on Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ and it’s the singalong of the day. We get the encore and even an after-encore appearance when, like Tony Bennett’s famous Glasto appearance, he gets down on his knees and salutes the crowd. Hugely uplifting.
Kurt Vile & the Violators look like the most metal of bands, all hanging heads of long hair, but the look belies a melodic psych/folk that packs a fair punch too. Even with acoustic guitars these guys are rocking and it’s so hard to drag yourself away, that we just accept that we’ll miss How To Dress Well on the other side of the site and get closer to Kurt.
The night is then a frustrating series of overlapping acts all worth a view. We make a call to catch the beginning of Shangan Electro after hearing about them here. There’s a desk of electronics and four mics and first out is Shangan main man Nozinja, who’s larger than life – all popping eyeballs – telling us we’re going to reach ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FOUR BEATS PER MINUTE by the end of the concert. The four singers come on, but they are not just singers they are four parties disguised as humans. These guys (two hip-shaking ladies and two crazy boiler-suited-clowns) and the most insanely energetic people you could ever see and the music, increasing each song from 170 to the magic 184 is still really dance-addictive and randomers idling into the tent are soon swept up in what becomes a full-tent ass-shaking extravaganza.
We’re having so much fun we have almost forgotten about Bristol’s Portishead on the main stage. When we arrive and re-acclimatise we see classic Portishead – Beth Gibbons thin and hunched over her mic, lost in ‘Sour Times’. These guys bleed atmosphere, especially in the fading light of evening, and it says something that they hold a main stage crowd relatively rapt in the vast space in front of the Orange stage. The people in the pit probably had the best vantage point, a full stereo-surround treat if you can get between the speakers as the sound seemed pitch-perfect. Just before the last song, Beth makes a run for the front row and beaming wildly, then embraces almost everyone there, right to left, before making it back just in time to close the set.
By the time we grab a beer and take a walk around the site in the warm evening in search of some late dinner (Swedish meatballs and mash won the day) the trek to the furthest tent to see Anna Calvi leaves us with just enough time to catch the last few songs. Sitting, with her long curls framing her expressive face, we’re immediately sorry we haven’t made it here earlier. It’s still quite clear she has the crowd in a spell as you can just feel the reaction coming off people as you enter. It’s a nicely intimate show in the small floor-boarded Pavilion tent, with the ideal number of people – a perfect booking for Friday at midnight.
Meanwhile back at the main stage M.I.A. is 15 minutes late coming on, only to then play a 10 minute animated and repetitive Hindu film as intro. There was a huge power button in the middle of the stage and the crowd, high on Saturday, the sun and no doubt a few other things, were certainly on for this. As it progressed State were a bit distanced by the posturings of the big stage attitude by M.I.A., without getting a lot from the music, so leaving the revellers to it we departed.
Shattered after a day all over the site in the welcome sunshine, and with so much upbeat action for the night happening at the same time a look around the social side of the festival is in order and we start with an old car with the roof sawn off which has become an organic White Russian bar. There’s an array of hamock/chairs which you don’t ever want to get out of and across from that an X-Box bar with a queue of people playing Dance Central, and being surprisingly good at it (they’ve probably been there all day).
With the last gas in the tank we make a trip to DâM FunK with Master Blaster. They open with what seems to be Radiohead’s ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ and soon slip into some early disco funk sounds. We’ve been spoiled by the Shangan dance fest earlier and the less frentic atmosphere suits the smokers but we’ve got to go charge up for another day. You can never forget it’s a long four-day affair here at Roskilde and peaking too early could be detrimental.
Photos by Jakob Bekker-Hansen